HSE confirms close-contact alerts bug on iOS Covid Tracker app is fixed

22 Oct 2020

Image: Luke Maxwell/Siliconrepublic.com

An issue that affected close-contact alerts for some users of the Covid Tracker app on iPhones has been resolved, according to the HSE.

Some users of the Covid Tracker Ireland app on iPhones had their close-contact alerts delayed due to an error with the app recently. According to Newstalk, an iPhone user had flagged the problem, saying that when they checked their exposure notifications in the phone’s settings, it said their exposure log had not been checked in 14 days.

Under the decentralised contact-tracing system, random IDs collected by the Irish Covid Tracker app are only stored for up to 14 days. During that time, the system will check in with the phone’s records several times a day to help facilitate contact tracing.

However, it appears that an error on the iOS version of the app meant there was a delay in updates between early September and 20 October.

After being contacted on the matter, the HSE confirmed that this was an error on the iOS app and it has been resolved, with users not needing to take any further action. There was no indication as to how many app users were affected.

App update due soon

In a statement to Newstalk, the HSE said the issue was due to an “authentication token not synchronising correctly within the app”.

“This led to failures in exchanges and downloading of files between the mobile phone app and the IE key registry,” it said.

“This is not an issue that has been reported widely to the HSE. Once it was brought to our attention, we took immediate action to investigate and we are now improving monitoring of the backend database to ensure better visibility at a global level and to identify any similar issues in the future.”

The HSE added that an update to the app, expected to roll out next week, will help improve the ability to identify similar issues.

The source code of the Covid Tracker Ireland app has now been used for other contact-tracing apps across the world, including New York and New Jersey. The app was also recently linked with similar apps from Germany and Italy as part of a new EU-wide system, known as the interoperability gateway service, which was developed by the European Commission to link national Covid-19 apps across borders.

In its statement about the EU system last week, the Government said that the Irish the app has had 2.1m registrations since it was launched in July and now has an active user base of 1.31m people, representing 34pc of Ireland’s population over the age of 16.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic